Are adverbial participles only nominative?

Biblical Greek morphology and syntax, aspect, linguistics, discourse analysis, and related topics
Dan Ulrich
Posts: 4
Joined: February 22nd, 2018, 12:22 pm

Are adverbial participles only nominative?

Post by Dan Ulrich » February 22nd, 2018, 1:27 pm

In Rodney J. Decker's textbook (Reading Koine Greek [Baker Academic, 2014]), he claims on p. 391 that "Adverbial participles, since they modify the verb and therefore assume the same actor as the nominative-case subject, occur only in the nominative case."

He then qualifies this statement in a footnote: "This is not a universal consensus among grammarians but at the very least it is a general rule with a very high degree of reliability. The English translation of some participles may make it sound like some oblique-case participles are adverbial, but the point is not how they are translated but how they function in Greek. On this, see the important article by Culy, 'Clue Is in the Case.'"

I have read Martin Culy's article, for which a full citation is "The Clue Is in the Case: Distinguishing Adjectival and Adverbial Participles," Perspectives in Religious Studies 30.4 (2003): 441-53. His theory, if true, could certainly simplify the task of analyzing the syntactical functions of participles. He gives examples to show that oblique case participles are adjectival in the sense that they describe their referents. He does not give evidence to demonstrate that oblique case participles cannot function adverbially, nor does he attempt to explain why koine Greek authors felt the need to use definite articles with some oblique-case participles but not others. My impression is that a definite article is generally needed to mark a participle as having an attributive function when its referent is definite. Culy makes an exception for genitive absolute constructions on the theory that they are "used when the subject of the [adverbial] participle is different from the subject of the main verb." I am more inclined to say that a genitive absolute construction allows the author to state a participle's referent within the participial phrase when the referent does not have a syntactical function elsewhere in the sentence.

My hope in posting to this forum is to get a sense for how participants here view the theory that only nominative participles can have an adverbial function. Should I get on board with Decker and Culy's view, and teach my students accordingly next week? If so, is there more convincing support for that view than Decker and Culy have given? Or should I stay with my current assumptions; and, if so, why?

Thank you in advance for your help.

Daniel W. Ulrich, Wieand Professor of New Testament Studies, Bethany Theological Seminary
0 x



Barry Hofstetter
Posts: 1336
Joined: May 6th, 2011, 1:48 pm

Re: Are adverbial participles only nominative?

Post by Barry Hofstetter » February 22nd, 2018, 1:58 pm

Well, the question is how well this stands up under investigation, and it's a claim I've always found somewhat suspect.

Matt 17:25, καὶ ἐλθόντα εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν προέφθασεν αὐτὸν ὁ Ἰησοῦς λέγων...

Does anyone want to argue that the accusative ἐλθόντα here is not being used adverbially?
0 x
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
Χαίρετε ἐν κυρίῳ πάντοτε· πάλιν ἐρῶ, χαίρετε

Stirling Bartholomew
Posts: 813
Joined: August 9th, 2012, 4:19 pm

Re: Are adverbial participles only nominative?

Post by Stirling Bartholomew » February 22nd, 2018, 3:47 pm

Barry Hofstetter wrote:
February 22nd, 2018, 1:58 pm
Well, the question is how well this stands up under investigation, and it's a claim I've always found somewhat suspect.

Matt 17:25, καὶ ἐλθόντα εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν προέφθασεν αὐτὸν ὁ Ἰησοῦς λέγων...

Does anyone want to argue that the accusative ἐλθόντα here is not being used adverbially?
Not only that, but the metalanguage is getting in the way as R. Buth pointed out not long ago:


viewtopic.php?t=3965&p=26583#p26580
Re: Do adverbial participles have an implicit subject?
by RandallButh » February 13th, 2017, 2:43 am

The simple point is that all of this talk about "adverbial participles" is English metalanguage and does not elucidate the structure of Greek but adds a layer of abstraction.

The Greek is really simple.

Participles are adjectives built from verbs (until converted into adverbs by the -ως ending).
Because they are built from verbs they carry aspect and voice.
Like adjectives they can be used inside a definite noun phrase and without a definite noun phrase (aka. 'attributively', 'predicatively').

Nominative participles co-refer to an explicit subject or to an implicit subject within a finite verb.

Participles in other cases, like adjectives, co-refer to a noun-phrase in that case explicitly, or implicitly become that noun phrase.

"Adverbial participles" is an attempt to make things 'clear' for English students, although it appears that it unnecessarily gummies up the works. I prefer for students to follow the Greek directly in a more streamlined fashion. Then, later, they can learn how to talk with people tied up in English metalanguage.
0 x
C. Stirling Bartholomew

MAubrey
Posts: 922
Joined: May 6th, 2011, 8:52 pm
Location: Washington
Contact:

Re: Are adverbial participles only nominative?

Post by MAubrey » February 22nd, 2018, 8:57 pm

To the extent that Decker qualifies his statement, he is correct. Rarely is there need for an adverbial participle to cross-reference with someone other than a subject.

But it does happen, albeit only on occasion. But when those occur, the participle takes the case of the participant it's referring to.

In turn, if there is no participant in the immediate clause, then that participle is an absolute and it will appear in the genitive...hence the genitive absolute.
0 x
Mike Aubrey, Linguist
Koine-Greek.com

MAubrey
Posts: 922
Joined: May 6th, 2011, 8:52 pm
Location: Washington
Contact:

Re: Are adverbial participles only nominative?

Post by MAubrey » February 22nd, 2018, 8:59 pm

Stirling Bartholomew wrote:
February 22nd, 2018, 3:47 pm
Barry Hofstetter wrote:
February 22nd, 2018, 1:58 pm
Well, the question is how well this stands up under investigation, and it's a claim I've always found somewhat suspect.

Matt 17:25, καὶ ἐλθόντα εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν προέφθασεν αὐτὸν ὁ Ἰησοῦς λέγων...

Does anyone want to argue that the accusative ἐλθόντα here is not being used adverbially?
Not only that, but the metalanguage is getting in the way as R. Buth pointed out not long ago:


viewtopic.php?t=3965&p=26583#p26580
Re: Do adverbial participles have an implicit subject?
by RandallButh » February 13th, 2017, 2:43 am

The simple point is that all of this talk about "adverbial participles" is English metalanguage and does not elucidate the structure of Greek but adds a layer of abstraction.

The Greek is really simple.

Participles are adjectives built from verbs (until converted into adverbs by the -ως ending).
Because they are built from verbs they carry aspect and voice.
Like adjectives they can be used inside a definite noun phrase and without a definite noun phrase (aka. 'attributively', 'predicatively').

Nominative participles co-refer to an explicit subject or to an implicit subject within a finite verb.

Participles in other cases, like adjectives, co-refer to a noun-phrase in that case explicitly, or implicitly become that noun phrase.

"Adverbial participles" is an attempt to make things 'clear' for English students, although it appears that it unnecessarily gummies up the works. I prefer for students to follow the Greek directly in a more streamlined fashion. Then, later, they can learn how to talk with people tied up in English metalanguage.
Thing is, in this context, 'adjective' is as much meta language getting in the way as adverbial is.
0 x
Mike Aubrey, Linguist
Koine-Greek.com

Barry Hofstetter
Posts: 1336
Joined: May 6th, 2011, 1:48 pm

Re: Are adverbial participles only nominative?

Post by Barry Hofstetter » February 23rd, 2018, 4:47 pm

MAubrey wrote:
February 22nd, 2018, 8:59 pm

Thing is, in this context, 'adjective' is as much meta language getting in the way as adverbial is.
Nicely observed. My question at this point -- how many exceptions to the rule before we rule that the rule is no longer a rule?

Matt 6:30 εἰ δὲ τὸν χόρτον τοῦ ἀγροῦ σήμερον ὄντα καὶ αὔριον εἰς κλίβανον βαλλόμενον ὁ θεὸς οὕτως ἀμφιέννυσιν, οὐ πολλῷ μᾶλλον ὑμᾶς, ὀλιγόπιστοι;

Trigger Alert! Metalanguage below... :shock: :o

I want to say that because of the way nominative participles tend to be used in the overall syntax of the sentence, they lend themselves easily to predicate-adverbial, but that we can't necessarily exclude participles in the oblique cases being so used. It's just quite a bit less often.
0 x
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
Χαίρετε ἐν κυρίῳ πάντοτε· πάλιν ἐρῶ, χαίρετε

Stirling Bartholomew
Posts: 813
Joined: August 9th, 2012, 4:19 pm

Re: Are adverbial participles only nominative?

Post by Stirling Bartholomew » February 23rd, 2018, 9:24 pm

I read Martin Culy's article a long time ago. At that time I was reasonably familiar with Culy's framework. I appreciated his effort to disambiguate the issue under discussion for seminary students. I came away from it with several partially formed unresolved questions. I wasn't totally convinced.

Meta-language is a constant source of confusion.

The traditional tagging system which attaches (?)functional(?) labels like *adverbial* to participles works well enough as long as we are all in agreement about what we mean. That's the sticking point. Were not all in agreement. In fact these discussions get nowhere fast because this whole system of tags/labels is riddled with unresolved ambiguities. The seminary student enrolled in an intermediate grammar course ends up chasing shadows trying to pin down elusive categories that become more confusing the more you read about them in different grammars. My first grammar teacher, E.V.N. Goetchius, explicitly set out in his introduction to abandon that way of doing things. His book was published half a century ago, nobody I know about has followed his example.
0 x
C. Stirling Bartholomew

MAubrey
Posts: 922
Joined: May 6th, 2011, 8:52 pm
Location: Washington
Contact:

Re: Are adverbial participles only nominative?

Post by MAubrey » February 25th, 2018, 6:11 pm

Barry Hofstetter wrote:
February 23rd, 2018, 4:47 pm
Trigger Alert! Metalanguage below... :shock: :o

I want to say that because of the way nominative participles tend to be used in the overall syntax of the sentence, they lend themselves easily to predicate-adverbial, but that we can't necessarily exclude participles in the oblique cases being so used. It's just quite a bit less often.
Exactly.

And functionally, there's is an expectation among language users that the subject of the sentence is also the participant or object that the sentence is about...as such as any participle floating around the clause unattached directly to a noun phrase (*cough* adverbial *cough*) is going to expected to follow suit and also refer to the subject...which is in the nominative cause...so cross-referencing with case agreement produces...well, nominative case.
0 x
Mike Aubrey, Linguist
Koine-Greek.com

Dan Ulrich
Posts: 4
Joined: February 22nd, 2018, 12:22 pm

Re: Are adverbial participles only nominative?

Post by Dan Ulrich » March 17th, 2018, 5:48 pm

My sincere thanks to all who shared in answering my question on this thread!

As a result of this discussion, I have learned that participants here have different opinions about the claim in Decker's textbook that "adverbial" participles are almost always nominative. There seems to be agreement that there are exceptions to Decker's rule in addition to the exception he names (genitive absolute constructions). There is some disagreement, however, about how useful Decker's rule may be in spite of those exceptions. There are also serious doubts about whether "adverbial" is an appropriate term to use in describing a function in Koine Greek syntax. Importing a category from English grammar may confuse rather than clarify the function. On the other hand, my impression is that it is very difficult for English speakers to learn and describe Greek grammar without resorting to some imports of that sort.

While teaching about participles in the past few weeks, I have been able to offer a second opinion to Decker's in a way that I feel has been helpful to students. When a participle agrees with a referent in gender, number, and case, the participial phrase is "adjectival" in the sense that it describes its referent. This is true whether or not the participial phrase is also "adverbial" in the sense that it reports a circumstance related to the action of a verb. A participle that reports a circumstance related to the action of a verb usually has the subject of a finite verb as its referent and will therefore be nominative; nevertheless, case is not the deciding factor in determining whether a participle is functioning in that way. One also needs to analyze whether a participle is in attributive or predicate position relative to its referent. Participles in attributive position relative to their referents are part of a noun phrase and are purely "adjectival." Participles in predicate position are part of a predicate. They may be part of a periphrastic construction; they may be a necessary part of the direct object of a verb; or they may report a circumstance related to the action of a verb.

I hope that I have been able to describe the syntax with reasonable accuracy despite some use of "metalanguage." I am very open to correction as needed.

Finally, I was excited to refer my students to the discussion on this thread. Who knows? Maybe some will become participants on B-Greek. Thank you again for your help.

Dan Ulrich, Ph.D., Wieand Professor of New Testament Studies
Bethany Theological Seminary
0 x

Stirling Bartholomew
Posts: 813
Joined: August 9th, 2012, 4:19 pm

Re: Are adverbial participles only nominative?

Post by Stirling Bartholomew » March 18th, 2018, 2:35 pm

The genitive absolute exception should be a red flag. It indicates a huge hole in the model. To adequately address the question about assigning an adverbial tag to participles, you need to look at the whole model (tag network). The meaning of the adverbial tag is determined by its position in the network, its relationship to other tags in the network. Discussion that proceeds as if the network structure is a stable factor ignore half a century or more research in syntax modeling and semantic networks. Martin Culy is a linguist. He knows this stuff.

summary: The problem with the rule isn't limited to the description of the rule. The problem is found by showing the deficiencies in the network. If you start out with a finite verb as the core constituent, participles with or without nouns function as arguments belonging to the core verb. The genitive absolute is not a special case. Participles co-referential with nominatives are not special either. An adequate model has no special cases.

If this sounds like something from an alternative universe, it probably is. There are alternatives. Big ones. Try thinking about the whole system of description as a network which needs a major overhaul.
0 x
C. Stirling Bartholomew

Post Reply